Chapter 10 of our text defines alternative journalism as journalism that “often purposefully defies the conventions of professional journalism.” The Colbert Report is a perfect example of modern alternative journalism in that it uses satire and humor as two of its major reporting methods. Steven Colbert plays a highly intolerant right wing conservative news anchor who gives his jaded opinion on significant news stories from around the world, mostly from the United States or US foreign relations, in a highly sensationalist manner. His opinions oftentimes stem from things that prominent republican pundits have said, and many of his “patriotic” or pro-US statements seek to cast many Americans as highly ignorant. I watched The Colbert Report on February 16, and in the episode the topic of whaling was brought up. Colbert gives his “wag of the finger” to the environmentalist group Sea Shepherds, who were the main reason for the recent cessation of Japanese whaling enterprises. Colbert asserts that whaling is as essential to the Japanese culture as “whatever this is,” this being a crazy Japanese TV show that is meant to look impossible to understand. Colbert effectively satirizes the viewpoint that he has just asserted, and this is one of his main tools of delivery. His show is fine alternative journalism because is presents its views and commentary in a unique and humorous manner, which make it well-received by the public. Additionally, as alternative journalism it does not have to conform to the established norms of conventional journalism, thus it has a greater area of control over the information it presents.
I looked at an article on the same story on nytimes.com, and found a fairly standard piece of conventional journalism, definitely leaning towards the environmentalists a little bit, but standard journalism nonetheless. I didn’t learn anything new from Colbert, and I definitely learned more from reading the nytimes.com article. Clearly, “standard” news is proving to be the better option for informative news, however Colbert certainnly as a place in media today.
The Colbert Report is a very interesting and different form of journalism, one that could be classified as sensationalism. Sensationalism is “news that exaggerates or features lurid details and depictions of events to reach a target audience”. I recently watched the February 15th episode, and watched many interesting takes on various aspects of news.
Colbert discusses the Middle Eastern conflicts in this episode, and takes a very light approach to them- one that could be considered offensive or thought-provoking. The offensiveness is apparent by just watching the show, through jokes about Heidi Mubarak taking Egypt’s government head (it was a picture of Mubarak with blonde braids). Thought-provoking things are also brought up in the show. For example, at one point, Colbert shows reports of Muslims “celebrating their democracy in the streets” and later shows the same clips, only saying that it is “Muslims rioting in the streets.” It plays on a common American perception, because the words that correlate with the video often give the viewers opinions on what is actually occurring. Also, Colbert plays with the American misperceptions of actual politics in the Middle East. He shows clips over and over again with Americans talking about how the Muslim Brotherhood will inevitably take over and constantly question whether or not the Middle East is ready for democracy. Colbert then proceeded to do research proving that only 1% of the population even voted for the Muslim Brotherhood for a presidential election. In addition, Colbert questions many people’s reasons that Egypt “isn’t ready for democracy” and asks if the Middle East has genetically different codes that make people believe that democracy is not a good choice. It was a funny and interesting look on the perceptions many people have. Fox News on the other hand, is one of the news sources that questions whether or not Egypt is ready for democracy. In an episode of late, Fox had an author about Middle Eastern affairs come in and talk about the effect. Rosenberg, the author, brings up the Muslim Brotherhood and their vow to dominate, but the lack of information that connects with Colbert makes me question who actually knows? Which of the two is known to be a more reliable news source? Obviously, Fox is more reliable because it is actually dedicated to news, whereas the Colbert Report is more about fun and jokes. I feel that the Colbert report definitely is not a legitimate news source compared to others.
I watched an episode of the Colbert Report entitled “David Albright”. I decided to focus on only one section of the show; the story about Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and charges with may be upon him. The people of Italy, in over 200 cities, marched the other day in protest of their leader and his demeaning ways. This being an issue of sexual misconduct it sets up Stephen Colbert to use his most effective tool sensational journalism. In this section and most others of Colbert’s report he uses sensational journalism, which means news that is embellished here and there in order to add more feeling to the reporter’s story. Colbert does this in a number of ways, but mainly through humor. It is undeniable in my opinion that if you watch the Colbert Report and nothing else you will be more aware of what is going on in the world; in turn this proves to me that the Colbert Report is a form of news.
However, since he does only give the audience a brief overview of the topic and with a “spin”, sensation journalism, it is not a news source that should be relied upon. Because Colbert is entertaining and not only reporting the news to inform the viewers on current events, he does point out information that other sources would not, as helpful or unhelpful as they may be. For example, in this episode segment on Berlusconi he brings up other evidence that the people of Italy have confronted Berlusconi about, such as his parties. This is where Berlusconi has been reported to inviting underage girls to his villa and had, as Colbert put it in his sarcastic overtone, “bunga-bunga parties”. While I watch CNN’s version of the story not once did I feel like laughing, I rather found myself thinking more deeply about the issue and other like it. CNN, in around the same time that Colbert allotted to the issue, provided more quality information on the subject. Even though Colbert’s puns and investigatory tactics are quite amusing, it is not a source that a person who wants to be well informed on the world around them should solely use.
The Colbert Report that aired on February 15, 2011 focused on three main topics in todays news: Democracy in the Middle East, Arizona State Senate Ron Gould and his new gun laws, and David Albright’s cyber warfare. I have researched these topics and have found articles about these topics. The comparison to the Colbert Report and the news release, are very different. Colbert frames his topics by using sarcasm, and comedy to portray the messages in an entertaining comedic manner. While describing the chaos in the Middle East with the rise of democracy, Colbert makes a joke about Italy being corrupt and backwards country. This statement directly relates to the sexual assult charges on Silvio Berlusconi. Women in Italy are furious at the fact that Berlusconi paid a 17 year old girl for sex at one of his “bunga bunga parties.” Colbert plays on the idea of a “bunga bunga” party and expresses his own opinion of what he thinks a bunga bunga party is. What he fails to tell his audience though, is that Italy’s Prime Minister Berlusconi has bigger issues on his plate. He has been fighting the courts over financial dealings for years. Colbert then blames Egypt for Berlusconi’s acts. As many headlines read today, the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to rise in Egypt. This is where Colbert breaches his duty of objectivity. Journalists are supposed to be impartial and free of bias in their reporting, but Colbert makes it clear that he doesn’t believe that Muslims are ready for democracy. He says “its just not in their DNA.” He then however, uses fairness to cover all relevant sides of the issue, by allowing a spokeswoman from ABC represent those various sides a chance to be covered in the same way. The guest speaker disagreed with Colbert, and stuck to the facts of the story, while Colbert used comedy to counteract her arguments. The last two segments, were new news to me. I was unaware of Airazona State Senate Ron Gould’s new laws on guns. I am not a person who believes in guns, and find it very disturbing that he is implementing things this way. The thought of people being able to walk into government buildings with guns seams quite ludicrous. Colbert brought light to how ridiculous Gould’s gun policy is, providing viewers with the things Gould is legalizing. Gould would allow guns to be brought into any government building or space, and his new law would protect people who “forget” they have a gun from telling cops they don’t have a gun, even if they really do. Lastly it is not a crime to shoot a gun, as long as the person who shoots it doesn’t realize that the gun could harm someone. I looked up these laws on the AZ state website, and although the words are different, Colbert isn’t making this crazy story up. He wraps up his broadcast with special guest David Albright and talks with him about the stuxnet that is injected into nuclear weapons facilities to slow down the process of building the weapons. Once again Colbert uses fairness to allow David to express one side of the story, while Colber plays devils advocate on the side.
This article relates to the four theories of international communication in many ways. The four theories are as follows; The authoritarian theory , the libertarian theory, the social responsibility theory, and the soviet theory. The authoritarian theory states that government exert direct control over the media. The FCC regulates what Colbert is and isn’t able to say on TV. The Libertarian Theory is the best representation of the Colbert Report, for this theory allows individuals the right to publish whatever he or she wants event material that is critical of the government or of the government officials. Colbert takes full advantage of this by using comedy to report on the news in a way in which he, and comedy central, find to be comedic and interesting. The social responsibility theory states that media is vital to informing citizens as such should be free from most governmental constraints in order to provide the best most reliable and impartial information to the public. Colber provides news to consumers in a comedic way in order to draw attention to the content. Lastly, the Soviet theory states that media should be publicly owned and used to further the needs of the working class. This one is kind of a stretch, but one might argue that this show provides jobs to the working class. Comedy central needs people to write, edit, film, exc. in order for the show to air. This show provides jobs for people, and thus betters the working class.
The State of the Union address is always analyzed and picked apart by the media after it takes place. This year there was a lot of criticism as well as some praise of President Obama’s speech. The Colbert Report gave its view on the speech the next day. Stephen Colbert approached the subject in a positive light, saying that he had been won over by the speech and that the President “seemed very presidential.” Of course, as always, Colbert seemed sincere but had a tone of irony. He showed clips from the speech that were cut in amusing ways, such as the president talking about how great China is and how they’re ahead of us, but taking it out of context. He showed a quick montage of every time the President used his catchphrase, “winning the future,” in the speech. While this was done for humor, it did point out how many times Obama used these words in his speech without really giving specifics. Colbert went on to assess Obama’s call for entrepreneurship and inventiveness, which Colbert seemed to have taken very seriously and had already tried to become an inventor himself; he showed us his toaster on wheels and fork phone. While this again was obviously satire, it did make the audience think about what the President said in his speech, and his somewhat vague call for American inventiveness. Colbert concluded by saying that he was convinced by the speech but he wants to know how others responded. He proceeded to interview Clinton’s former speech-writer, Michael Waldman, on the subject. Waldman said that the President did a good job conveying optimism and drawing a line with republicans, but it didn’t rank with the best political speeches. Colbert questioned him about what goes into writing a State of the Union address, and Waldman said that it’s a long process, involving many people, in which every little word chosen can make a difference in future policy and budget. I thought this background information was interesting, and maybe not something you would see on another news program. Finally, the two talked about some of the things Obama didn’t mention in his speech, such as the still high rate of unemployment, or climate change.
Fox News did a piece on the speech right after Obama had finished it; they had a panel of analysts and reporters giving their views on his performance. One columnist said that the speech was weak and didn’t address the big issues, and New York Post correspondent said the speech was flat and lacking specifics. A representative of Fox News liked the speech, and especially Obama’s statement “We do big things.” He said he thought Obama spoke to the moment, giving hope to the unemployed and disheartened Americans. A last political analyst was very critical of the speech, and said Obama simply outlined a lot of projects that will take money, without addressing the deficit. This report by Fox News gave several perspectives, but was still an opinion piece rather than an objective news story. In covering an important speech such as this, it seems that the public look to the media for guidance and interpretation on what they should think about the speech. Here the media’s role is not so much that of objective reporting, but that of putting the event in context and helping the public decide what it means and what they should think about it.
Colbert plays the role of giving context to the speech as well, although he does this through humor. By replaying certain clips and giving over-the-top reactions he makes the audience think about things they may not have when they were simply watching the president’s speech. The Colbert Report is an entertainment program rather than a news program, but the line between news and entertainment is often crossed these days. News shows certainly draw in viewers by offering exciting opinions and debates, and they work to frame their stories in ways that will appeal most to viewers. In this sense I don’t think The Colbert Report is any less valid because it presents its information in biased ways; it just chooses humor as its framework. If anything, I think the Colbert Report makes a comment on the dramatization of news often seen on news channels, the highlighting of certain events and the push towards “entertaining” news to keep viewers interested.
In regard to the theories of international communication, Colbert’s show is no different from other American press in operating under the social responsibility theory. Of course, as a network television show the Colbert Report has to operate under certain guidelines and Colbert definitely does not have the freedom to say whatever he likes, as he would if operating under the libertarian theory. However he does have the freedom to criticize and make fun of whoever he likes, including and especially the government. This role is essential in American media, and is what makes us so different from countries like China that operate under the authoritarian theory. Being able to make fun of and laugh at our government is an important gift that comedians like Colbert give us. It is a form of free speech that does not really hold malice towards the government, but reminds viewers that we are free to question our government, and gives us a different take on current situations.
The story that I viewed on The Colbert Report was titled, “Mr. Smith Goes to the State Legislature, Then Later Possibly Washington – Ron Gould”. In this clip Colbert discusses someone who could potentially be a Presidential candidate. Ron Gould is a state senator in Arizona. He has proposed new legislation in regards to firearm control. This installment of The Colbert Report falls right between the distinctions of yellow journalism and sensational journalism. This is because Colbert highlights all of the aspects of the legislation that are clearly not safe, and for the most part the parts cited by Colbert are illogical in relation to firearm control. I would say that Colbert leans more towards sensational journalism rather than yellow journalism because even though he is eliciting a response based on the dramatic presentation of the legislation, he is not completely fabricating the story. I would say that Colbert did not approach this from an objective viewpoint in that he was clearly mocking the legislation, and did not believe that Gould could be a good presidential candidate. The bias was quite clear in the video clip.
The news article that I found that went along with the legislation critiqued by Colbert is on Arizona’s CBS news page, channel 5. The story is titled, “State Senator Wants To Loosen Gun Laws”. This article frames the story really well. The Tuscon shootings are still fresh in many minds, and the journalist takes advantage of that and reminds everyone of the recent event. Framing the story in that way does not skew the objectivity of the story though. The facts were stated, and there was no clear bias one way or the other.
This story qualifies as news because it is relevant to the citizens of Arizona, and especially those who were impacted by the shootings. Also, the story has potential to develop into something larger, maybe even the presidential race.
The Colbert Report that critiques the legislation definitely brought forth aspects of the legislation that were not discussed in the article from the CBS story. After viewing the clip, I would not be as likely to support the legislation. That also may be because nothing positive was mentioned in the clip.
I would say that The Colbert Report embodies the principles outlined in the libertarian theory, the social responsibility theory, and the Soviet theory. The authoritarian theory does not really apply to the show in that the government does not directly rule over what is aired. Colbert clearly exercises the rights that fall under the libertarian theory. This is because he says whatever he wants even if it does cast a negative light on the government and its actions. Also, Colbert does his best to inform the citizens. However, it does not exactly fall under the social responsibility theory because his viewpoint is not impartial. The Soviet theory holds true as well in regards to The Colbert Report because the government does not own the show, and it is made available to all, including the working class.
Many of the regular news outlets cover the Egyptian crisis in an unbiased way as possible. But at times they may be leaning towards the protestors against a dictator, but they also are talking about how Egypt is a major ally of the U.S. In his shows, Colbert goes over a some of the things that are going on in Egypt, but he tends to look more closely at how the media is reacting to the uprising. He shows the audience many short clips of news analysts talking about the Egyptian crisis, then mocks them. For instance, in one of his shows he showed a clip of a reporter saying how since Egypt is an ally of the U.S., and if Mubarak is overthrown, gas may go up 10 cents in price. Colbert then goes on to ridicule what the reporter said by saying that a having a dictator is worth is if we can get 10 cents cheaper on gasoline. Another segment of Colbert making fun of the media was when he compared Egypt to “Jersey Shore” after Anderson Cooper got hit. Colbert did express some views on the crisis, but most of his discussions on the topic was about the media.
The times that, Colbert did talk about the Egyptian crisis, it seemed as though he was more in favor of the protestors and against the dictatorship of Mubarak. He brought on a guest to his show and they discussed how quickly and effectively the protestors were able to overthrow Mubarak. He also mocked many news analysts saying that Egypt was an ally of the U.S., which shows that he is against the view that the U.S. should support Mubarak and his regime because they are allies.
The Colbert Report is a show that does not have fairness or balance. He is a strong critic of politics, business, etc. He does not report the news from an unbiased point-of-view, and if he finds something that is currently happening in the world that he does not agree with, he will express his view on the topic in a mocking comedic way. His show reports current events in a very opinionated way.